- What is Geographical Indication?
- Importance of GI
- GI products in India
- Concerns with GI’s
- GI and TRIPS Agreements
- Critical analysis
- Prospects of GI products in India
Geographical Indications have the potential to be India’s growth engine
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GS (M) Paper-3: “Issues relating to intellectual property rights.”
- The recent overall slowdown in India’s exports, possibly calls for a re-examination of policies essential to propel India’s foreign trade.
- One such policy is the recognition of geographical indications (GIs).
What is Geographical Indication?
- Geographical Indication (GI) is sign or insignia used on products that have specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation that are due to that origin.
- Such name, sign or insignia conveys assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
- The status to products marks its authenticity and ensures that only registered authorised users are allowed to use popular product name.
- Darjeeling Tea, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus are some of examples for products having GIs.
Importance of GI:
- Much like trademarks, the economic rationale of GI is based on the ‘information asymmetry’.
- It is used to tackle the asymmetry between buyers and sellers in the market, and the role of reputation, conveyed through distinctive signs.
- It helps the producers to differentiate their products from competing products in the market and help them build a reputation and goodwill around their products, to fetch a premium price.
- The immense revenue potential of GIs necessitated their cross-border protection and thus these were included in the ambit of the TRIPS Agreement.
- The products not only emerge as a major product in export basket but also helps in promotion of tourism and cultural heritage.
- This enhance the marketability of such products, and demonstrate that GIs have great potential to play a major role in trade between countries.
- This further increases the commercial significance of GIs which were not aware to many developing countries like India.
GI products in India:
- India has plenty of such product which can very well contribute to exports and popularity.
- Many handicraft products such as Kanjeevaram silk sarees, Pochampally Ikat, Chanderi fabrics, Madhubani paintings, Mysore jasmine, Bidri metalworks, Kotpad handloom, etc, have been registered as GIs in India.
- Lots of food products and agricultural products are also registered.
- In fact, six foreign products have also been registered as GIs in India.
- Over 170 Indian products have been recognised as GIs in India. Evidently, the potential is immense.
- Since many of Indian GI products are largely exported to EU countries—there is a merit in negotiating to implement equal treatment for Indian GI products. After all, EU is still India’s largest trading partner.
Concerns with GI’s:
- Due to ‘unequal provision or treatment’ meted out to developing countries, they are unable to capitalise their true potential.
- The issue has gathered momentum with the recognition of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on GIs as a form of IPR. Article 22 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement says unless a geographical indication is protected in the country of its origin, there is no obligation under the agreement for other countries to extend reciprocal protection.
GI and TRIPS Agreements:
- The Article 22 of the Agreement forms the centrality of GI protection.
- It provides for a general level of cross-border protection of GIs in the course of trade, which is extended to India and other developing countries.
- However, what distinguishes developed countries from India is a special provision under Article 23 for protection of GIs in the form of wines and spirits.
- The major demanders of this kind of protection were the European countries with their very long tradition in making of wines and spirits.
- Developing countries, including India, have raised this issue in the Doha Round and in the recent meetings at the WTO.
- They seek the same higher level of protection for all GIs as was given under Article 23 for wines and spirits.
- The registration is only the first step in the creation of a market for the GI.
- Benefits can only be realised only when these products are effectively marketed and protected against illegal copying.
- This protection first gains significance in the domestic context before international protection becomes relevant.
- However, for internationally recognised products having expansive export market, international protection is of crucial importance.
Prospects of GI products in India:
- There is a direct link between the GI products and cultural diversity that exists in India.
- There is also a link to local rural communities, having traditional knowledge of making these products, which in themselves are part of their traditional cultural expressions.
- Legal protection to GIs also extends to protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression contained in the products.
- In doing so, not only are livelihoods protected but also possibilities of employment generation are encouraged.
- Along with premium prices that many GIs command today, there is a possibility of preserving many traditional skills also.
- GI will be able to contribute to their foreign exchange as well as protect its exclusiveness, heritage and traditional skills of making such products.
- Protection and equal treatment should be provided to developing countries like India.
- GIs have the potential to be India’s growth engine.
- Policy-makers must pay a heed to this and negotiate harder to give Indian GI products their true reward.